Performance Communication , Workplace Communication

Why I hate compromise and you should too

Why I hate compromise and you should too

Like many of you, I hate losing. When I was a child, I cried when I didn’t win a game. As an adult, I don’t like buying raffle tickets or lottery tickets because I get mad when I don’t win and angry at myself for wasting my money on a one-in-a-million chance at something.

Another thing I hate is compromise and it’s always amazing to me that so many people see it as a good thing!

On the surface, I can see why people might be lulled into thinking that compromise is good. From a communication standpoint, compromise is one of the quickest, easiest ways to resolve a conflict. It requires the least communication skill, least time, and least effort. Compromise results in both parties getting something that they wanted, so what’s so bad about that? Let’s see.

Imagine there’s a Zombie Apocalypse and your family has managed to survive. There are very few resources left and as the family provider, you go in search of food to feed your kids. You come upon an abandoned store that has one can of beans left on the shelf. Just as you go to put it in your pack to take back to your family, another person comes into the store and asks you to COMPROMISE. What are you going to do, crack open the can of beans, pour half into your sack and let the other guy take the other half? Probably not a great solution. Not only is compromise a messy solution, but in more serious situations, the result is that both parties lose. For example, if that half can of beans doesn’t have enough calories to keep your child (or theirs) alive, that’s not really a great solution, is it?

I know this is an extreme example, so let’s try another one.

You’re getting ready to leave for work and there’s a 100-dollar bill on the counter. You want to take it because the place you’re going to lunch today only takes cash. However, as you reach for the hundred, your spouse yells, “I need that! I’m turning in money today for Mary’s baby shower!” Would tearing the hundred in half be a good COMPROMISE?

Final example, think about the budgeting process for businesses. If you know you need a certain amount of money to run your small business, or your department, do you think COMPROMISING, giving up some of your budget just to get budget negotiation over with quickly is in the best interest of your business or organization?

Here’s the problem with compromise . . . it’s rooted in LOSING. It’s a LOSE-LOSE approach to conflict that’s going to result in a lose-lose outcome for everyone involved. Can’t we put our communication and thinking skills to work and come up with something better?

When it comes to communicating and negotiating with another party and you find yourself thinking, “What’s a good compromise?” Take a step back and say, “How can I get what I need AND how can the other person get what he or she needs too?” Taking compromise off the table, or at least using it as a last resort, is the only way you’ll have a chance at finding a solution that’s optimal for everyone. However, it requires great communication skills and a willingness to put in some time to achieve a better outcome.

So, stop selling yourself and others short by making compromise your go-to goal and start focusing on WINNING as the outcome. This doesn’t mean being selfish. What it means is:

1. Clearly communicating with others what you NEED (not necessarily what you want) and what you’re trying to accomplish.

For example, in the $100 bill scenario above, YOU specifically need cash because that’s all the restaurant takes. However, do you need $100? Do you need THAT $100 or do you have time to stop at an ATM? Be clear in expressing your exact need.

When conducting workshops on communicating conflict resolutions, I stress to people that it’s easier to get what you NEED than to get everything you WANT. This isn’t to say you can’t include wants in your goals, but by focusing on needs, you’re more likely to be satisfied with the outcome and to reach an outcome that’s satisfying to both parties.

2. Listening to the other person’s needs and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Your spouse needs money too, but how much? Even if the shower contribution was $100, does it have to be cash, or could he or she write a check to the baby shower coordinator for the amount? You’ll have to ask questions and listen to find out.

3. Working together and being creative to find the best possible solution that meets both your needs. 

Does one of you have time to go to an ATM?

Can one of you use a check instead of cash?

Can you borrow some money from your kids for today?

Does the baby shower money have to be turned in today, or is the deadline later in the week, giving one of you time to get more cash?

And on and on . . .


And yes, this takes more communication skill, more time, and more effort. It can be more frustrating that just going for the quick fix of a compromise. However, I think you’ll find that the outcome will be longer lasting and more satisfying to both you and others.

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